US District Judge Laurie Smith Camp has ruled that Union Pacific Railroad’s failure to provide contraceptive coverage in employee health plans was discriminatory and a violation of the 1964 Federal Civil Rights Act. Many preventative medications were covered by the plan, including impotence treatments, and Camp ruled that the policy discriminates by treating “medical care women need to prevent pregnancy less favorably than it treats medical care needed to prevent other medical conditions that are no greater threat to employees’ health than is pregnancy,” reports the Associated Press.
Union Pacific argued that fertility is “normal” and therefore contraception is not “medically necessary,” although it did cover contraceptives prescribed for purposes unrelated to birth control. The Los Angeles Times reports that Union Pacific plans to appeal the ruling.
Planned Parenthood of Western Washington attorney Roberta Riley, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Reuters that Union Pacific was one of the last major employers not to cover contraceptives, and that she hopes this case is “the nail in the coffin on this issue.” Union Pacific has 49,000 employees, and contraceptive coverage would affect not only the 1,300 female employees, but also the family members of all workers.